Asia Times, December 19, 2007
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE – A month of acrimonious campaigning is over and voters have cast their ballots in assembly elections in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Bookies and exit polls indicate that Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s controversial chief minister, is likely to come back for another term at the helm.
This is distressing news for Gujarat’s religious minorities and for secular-democrats across India. Modi’s ideology, actions and public style are widely seen as a threat not only to Indian secularism – he thrives on stoking hatred against India’s Muslims – but also to its democracy.
The outcome of the election is being keenly watched not just by Indians but by foreign governments as well.
Modi’s fans see him as a messiah, someone who “has taught Muslims a lesson”. He is also credited with having brought vibrancy to Gujarat’s economy. His critics describe him as a “barbaric butcher” of Muslims in Gujarat, an “Indian Hitler” and the architect of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat.
In early 2002, Gujarat witnessed a frenzy of communal violence, when mobs targeted members of the Muslim community in the state, after Hindu pilgrims were killed in an alleged attack on a train. Modi turned a blind eye to the killing, raping and looting of Muslims. Among those who carried out the massacres were members of Modi’s party, the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and others of the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu right wing organizations. Around 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and tens of thousands were displaced in the violence.